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This review is from: Noah's Compass (Paperback)
Liam Pennywell has been made redundant from his teaching job at the age of 60. He needs to economise so he moves to a smaller apartment further out of town. He wonders if losing his job is a sign that it's time to move on to "the final stage, the summing-up stage".
This is the opening of Anne Tyler's 18th novel. Like all her others, it is set in Baltimore. Although Liam has lived alone for some years following the end of his second marriage, this novel is about his past and present relationships with other people, his family and others. This is familiar territory for those like me who have read a lot of Anne Tyler's other work.
As in her other novels, the story of Noah's Compass is gradually built up, it is a quiet, reflective novel about thoughts and feelings rather than a fast paced action-packed novel. Liam deals with what is happening to him by trying to focus on the positive side of it - paring down his possessions to prepare for the move is a chance to simplify his life.
Liam is proud of his memory but just after the move he wakes up in a hospital bed with no recollection of the knock on the head which caused him to be there. This does worry him and he sets out to find out. The loss of his job, the move and the gap in his memory force him to realise he is lonely, and he begins, very hesitantly, to re-establish relationships with his daughters, two adults and a 17 year old. His conversations with his family are often quite amusing and rather sad at the same time, as it becomes very clear that it is not just being hit on the head that is his problem, perhaps there is rather a lot he doesn't know.
He is attracted to a younger woman because she seems to be someone who could help look after him, and a friendship, then a relationship slowly develops. But is there more to dowdy but caring Eunice than meets the eye? The Eunice storyline is important, but I didn't like it that much, I had been drawn into the book enough to care about Liam and to think that there was something not quite right, that the romance didn't convince me. I was much more interested in reading about Liam re-establishing relationships with his three daughters, particularly teenage Kitty who comes to stay with him after lots of fights with her mum.
I found this story of Liam's first year of this new life a curiously absorbing read, and would recommend it to those who like this kind of quietly reflective, thoughtful fiction.